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Mother (NES) artwork

Mother (NES) review

"God bless Demiforce. If it weren’t for them, RPG nerds would never have had the opportunity to save the world from an unnamed threat with nothing but such ordinary items as baseball bats, frying pans and bottle rockets. They would never cruise through the desert in a tank, much less fight a massive robot blocking your path with one. They would never get the chance to survive taunting from hippies or exhaust gases from possessed vehicles."

Digital piracy has many forms. Burning a copy of the DVD you rented from the movie store in order to sell it to your friends is piracy. Downloading music for free is piracy. Hacking your Wii so you can play previously inaccessible titles is piracy.

Some people consider emulation piracy.

I disagree. Or, at the very least, I see no real harm in it. In fact, I don’t take much issue with any form of digital piracy unless it’s done for something other than strict personal use. But for emulation in particular, my convictions are especially strong.

Downloading games that are no longer in production is perfectly OK. Because lets face it; unless you’re a geezer, extremely loaded, or just very fortunate, it’s entirely likely that your childhood lacked much in retro gaming. Until now, my retro experience was limited to a handful of NES and Genesis games; the latter only played at friends’ and cousins’ houses. And, I suspect, for many of us, our old-school experience may not have been as fulfilling as we would have liked. Perhaps we were too young to enjoy such classics as Dragon Warrior and Gauntlet. Or, perhaps we did have that fortune, but, over the years, had to give it up, and now no longer have access to those former treasures we once had.

Thanks to emulation, this door has been reopened. For many gamers, young and old, emulation has created an opportunity to fill in the gaps as well as a chance to get caught up in fits of overwhelming nostalgia. But it’s done something else, too. Now not only do gamers have access to virtually every Castlevania title on the NES, but they now have access to the obscure, the untranslated, and the never ported.

The list of Japanese-only releases now available is tremendous. And, thanks to many devoted fans, several of these have translations. Fantastic titles like Just Breed and Ys, games that were only released in Japan, can now be played and enjoyed in full.

This is especially true for the rather unique case of the original Mother.

The commercial success of Mother in Japan during the late 80s initially convinced Nintendo to modify, translate and distribute the bizarre RPG for American audiences. However, due to delays, the release date eventually got pushed to sometime during 1991. Because of the proximity to the release of the SNES at that time, as well as Americans’ preoccupation with stomping on koopas and evading the wrath of angry monkeys, NoA, no doubt in its best interests, canceled the North American production of Mother before a single copy was ever made.

In fact, America, and the world, wouldn’t see anything of the quirky series until Mother 2 (renamed Earthbound for Western audiences) some years later. While it didn’t do as well as Nintendo would have liked, it did create a loyal fan base of snerds and recluses who whittled their time away chatting on Internet forums about peculiar but fascinating games scarcely anyone had ever heard of.

This devoted fan base took it upon themselves to bring the utter zaniness that is the Mother series in all its glory to the masses. Sometime in the mid-late 90s, Demiforce, a community of ROM hackers made somewhat famous for their translations of Final Fantasy II and III for NES, miraculously found and purchased a surviving flash cart of the original Mother, the very same that had been canceled all those years ago.

With beta in hand, they created a ROM and changed the title screen from “Mother” to “Earthbound Zero” so as to prevent confusion among Western fans. And that was all the tampering they had to do with it. Nintendo had already done the majority of the work. It was already translated for comprehensibility and edited to cut out any nastiness like blood, drugs, and religion because, you know, the American public is sensitive.

God bless Demiforce. If it weren’t for them, RPG nerds would never have had the opportunity to save the world from an unnamed threat with nothing but such ordinary items as baseball bats, frying pans and bottle rockets. They would never cruise through the desert in a tank, much less fight a massive robot blocking your path with one. They would never get the chance to survive taunting from hippies or exhaust gases from possessed vehicles. The talking monkey in the ruins would never hit on their female lead. Their bank account would remain forever empty because they never called their father in order to transfer funds. Their psychic powers would go unused, missing the hilarity that ensues whenever a teleport spell fails….

The list goes on.

Rats would never curse at them. The first kid to join your party would never blow up the science lab. The strange realm of Magicant would never be explored, dividing the line between modern and traditional RPG settings. The cactus would never sing one of eight melodies needed to defeat the final boss. The bats would never ponder the circumstances; the skunks would never trip over themselves. The protagonist would never die of a common cold…

And on.

Crows would never laugh at them… Zombies would never overrun a town… Strange UFO frequencies would never drive the animals insane… There’s just so much!

But, well, in a way, I’d be wrong. All of these things would have happened. Just only in Japan. And in today's world, without emulation, Mother would have only been a thing of the past, a memory of something truly great. Sure it can be argued that emulation steals profits from Nintendo’s Virtual Console, but it can also be argued that emulation has introduced a new fan base to games that they otherwise never would have played. And besides, Nintendo has released Pinball over Earthbound on the VC, why would they ever translate great titles like Just Breed and Mother, let alone release them?

wolfqueen001's avatar
Featured community review by wolfqueen001 (May 04, 2009)

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randxian posted May 04, 2009:

Maybe it's just me, but I think the commentary about emulator belongs in a separate article or on a blog.

However, you did cleverly work in all the good things about the game later on. You did manage to highlight the most important aspects of Earthbound -which are the storyline and quirky humor.

I still would've prefered a more traditional review. This felt more like an article than a video game review. I'm all for outside the box thinking, but this didn't seem to work for reviewing purposes. I think this would make a great editorial however.

Or is that just me? What does everyone else think?
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wolfqueen001 posted May 04, 2009:

Wow. Fastest feedback topic ever!

Haha. The editorial bits were intentional. It was ideally for Lewis' contest, but I've been rather late with it. I still wanted to put it out, though. You should probably look into these contset things. They're fun and a neat way to expand your style.

As for a "traditional" review, well... part of me would have liked to review the game that way, but on the other hand, I don't think I could review this one traditionally as well as I'd like.

In any case, if I were to review it traditionally, I'd talk about some of the little nitty-picky things that only slightly detract from the game like the random battle system which is just like any other RPG, though maybe a little more balanced (but sometimes it doesn't feel like it). They don't implement the system in Earthbound for SNES where it auto-battles for you when you're at a strong enough level...

But... honestly... that's like the only complaint I have against the game, so heh. It's a really neat title; I think everyone should play it. lol

Thanks for the feedback.
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randxian posted May 04, 2009:

Talk about opening mouth and inserting foot. I didn't realise this was actually for a contest.

I should've known something was up since I read that Residen Evil Gaiden review that was posted recently done in a narrative style. For some reason I didn't catch on with this one.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 04, 2009:

Haha. It's alright. Your feedback still showed me that it was relatively effective in what it was meant to do, so that makes me happy.

Anyway, I'd also add in level grinding. There's a bit of that in this game, too, which is a bit annoying, but it isn't terrible.
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Suskie posted May 04, 2009:

Yeah, when I started reading this thread I felt like saying, "Yeah, you DO know that this was for a contest, right...?"

I like this review/article/thing because I also believe that emulation simply opens the doors to a vast array of games we wouldn't be able to play otherwise, so long as the games in question are out of print anyway. Star Ocean was my defense for a while, because here's one of my all-time favorite games that I never would have been able to experience were it not for the joys of emulation and user translation, but apparently Square-Enix remade it for PSP recently. Still, plenty of other examples.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 05, 2009:

I actually think even those old games that are ported to the PSP or DS or whatever (Star Ociean, Chrono Trigger), are still viable for emulation just because even if the port's technically kept the same, it's still a port, which means it might be subtly different in other ways. I really can't say "It's not the same experience" here, because emulation isn't really the same experience as having the game on a console, either, but still. At least with emulation, you pretty much know the game's the same as it was unless you get a hack or something.

Of course, there is the issue of not wanting to play two of what are essentially the same games... so in that sense, people would likely opt to emulate Chrono Trigger because they don't want to pay for it on the DS, or maybe they just want to tie in with nostalgia or something by playing the original SNES version. So in that sense, it can steal money from companies, but the benefits of emulation far outshine these. Besides, if the gaming companies really wanted to be anal, they'd enact copyight laws for ROMs, which has been done on many mainstream titles such as Zelda, Sonic and Metroid. You really can't download them online, even if they're not in production anymore, because of those copright laws.

Though I suppose for mainstream titles like that, you can see them in compilation titles and the VC, so they're not completely lost at least. Well, most of them. I can't say that all of them were ported in some fashion.
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aschultz posted May 05, 2009:

I'm glad you got this posted. I knew I missed something when I was writing my piece and that was--bringing in emulation as a fourth wall sort of thing!

I enjoyed reading about Mother and the translation etc. I'd always known it was out there but never really looked into it. This review was fun and is extra encouragement for me to give it a look some day.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 08, 2009:

Thanks schultz. Sorry this took so long.

I'm glad this worked for you. You should definitely try the game. It's really awesome. Though I wouldn't download it off the typical ROM sites like ROMnation and CoolRom. I'd go to demiforce's actual website for this because that's where you'd get the right version for sure. The other places just have the Japanese version, and since the English one was already "made", there's no need to have a translation patch for them.
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dagoss posted May 13, 2009:

Glad to see this review came to fruition! It looks good; you got your point across with clarity.
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wolfqueen001 posted May 13, 2009:

Thanks! Glad you were able to see it. Didn't get a chance to show you before I left.

Shame you couldn't make the contest... You should still write the review, though, I think; or save it for another time, if such a contest is run again.

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